Trade shows. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them. Many companies simply go through the motions, thinking they have to make a trade show appearance in order to stay competitive. Little thought is ever given to a strategy – what they want to accomplish – and metrics are rarely captured to track the sales results from a trade show. That means many companies are spending a lot of money on trade shows without a clear post-trade show analysis of the results. The team at Derse Inc., led by president and chief executive officer Adam Beckett, saw this as an opportunity.

Derse is an iconic brand in Milwaukee and has been growing rapidly across the country. It specializes in face-to-face marketing, where trade shows are the gold standard. Historically, it has helped clients prepare for trade shows. But it identified an opportunity to dramatically enhance the trade show experience for those clients’ customers.

All innovation begins with the voice of the customer. That is where Derse saw important opportunities for its clients.

Contrary to setting trade show goals first, Derse begins by asking its clients: What are your sales and business objectives? From there, Derse aligns the trade show objectives to help the company get the most out of its investment.

More often than not, a client wants its product or offering to stand out. But how can any company make that happen at a Derse Inc.’s Milwaukee headquarters. Becketttrade show with possibly thousands of attendees? Derse helps its customers understand the core competitive advantage of their brand and then uses face-to-face marketing to deliver and create a brand experience for attendees in real time.

For example, one client makes very sophisticated medical devices, including valves for the heart. Amidst the medical jargon, Derse uncovered the client’s simple brand promise to “dramatically improve the quality of life for the patients” who are using its heart pumps or heart valves; not just keep them alive.

To drive that message home, Derse brought end user patients to the trade show to engage with doctors and share real stories about how the products improved their quality of life. But the story doesn’t end there. Prior to the trade show, Derse conducts strategy sessions and develops performance measurements, such as number of sales leads and the ability to convey perceptions of the client’s offering. Its philosophy is that you’re wasting money until you can track the metrics. And once you do, you become a true believer. Industry statistics suggest that more than $28 billion is invested in trade shows every year, with little understanding of the value to a given company. Derse develops performance metrics and helps clients track those results. It also recognizes that face-to-face marketing is improved if the physical layout is welcoming and a multisensory experience is available to those attending its client’s display. Derse ensures that the trade show deepens the experience for customers. Derse can also test presentations on prospective customers in advance of the trade shows to get feedback on message effectiveness and engagement. The ultimate test is whether the improved customer experience translates to increased quality leads following the trade show. Innovation begins with properly assessing the needs of customers. It’s not necessarily inventing the new mousetrap or disruptive technology, but stepping back and understanding an opportunity inherent in the client’s offerings that the client itself did not see. So if you’re looking to drive innovation in your company, here are some basics that can be learned from
Derse’s success:

  1. Begin by asking: What are the values behind your brand that you are trying to communicate?
  2.  Can you create opportunities to emotionally connect to those values so the customer can go beyond satisfaction with your company to becoming a devoted and loyal believer in what you offer?
  3. Finally, develop metrics that measure those initiatives to determine if they work. Without strategy, success is unlikely. It helps to communicate what you do for customers and deepens their experience and their relationship with you.

Keep reminding yourself: You are not selling products, but offering solutions to solve the customer’s problem.